“Jesus himself came near... but their eyes were kept from recognizing him... As they came near the village... he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, 'Stay with us...' So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him...” (Luke 24: 15-16, 28-30, NRSV)
For me, the story of the walk to Emmaus on that first Easter Sunday has always been the most intriguing of the Bible's reports of the risen Jesus (Luke 24:13-35). We could debate the possible reasons the two disciples didn't recognize the risen Jesus, however, in the end we would have to confess we just don't really know.
But what we do know is that for those two “Emmaus bound” disciples, that Sunday had not yet become Easter. They had not truly encountered the living Jesus, even though he was walking right beside them. It didn't happen, until they invited this “stranger” to a shared meal and he blessed and broke the bread.
We’re not told specifically what blessing prayer the risen Jesus prayed, but more than likely he was following an ancient Jewish table tradition. Before a meal, the male head of the household would take a loaf of bread, pray the traditional blessing, break or tear the bread apart, and distribute it to all those assembled for the meal. That prayer went something like this: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” It was a table blessing the two disciples would have heard and prayed hundreds of times before, but this time was different!
Every meal, especially those shared with others, can be an occasion to experience the presence of Christ. What was it Jesus said? "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them" (Matthew 18:20, NRSV). So, I encourage you to receive the gift of Easter that is Jesus Christ's presence and grace, at each and every meal you sit down to. As on that first Easter evening in Emmaus, it all begins with your invitation for Jesus to join you at the table.
Your partner on the journey,